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Unvaxxed travel to Bali: 10 things you need to know
Escape from Prison Island
I’m in Bali!
It’s warm and chaotic. My spirit needed a little chaos after the strictures of the past two years. And there is minimal Covid signage and policing. So nice. This is my first time travelling overseas with my Covid vaccine exemption and mask exemption. I was so nervous, as I had heard horrible stories in a few social media groups where people with valid exemptions were not permitted to board planes, were carted off to quarantine against their will, or were deported on arrival. I imagine others will feel the same, so I’ve pulled everything I learned together in one place. I hope it helps.
Everyone is allowed in, vax or no vax!
However, without a valid exemption, you will be required to quarantine for 5 days.
Exemptions are allowed, but only for contraindication
Initially, my reading of Indonesian rules was that prior infection exemptions don’t count unless you have had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine. However, a trusted source has advised the following:
”A prior infection can get you a medical contraindication and you can be issued with a temporary exemption (green tick) against the vaccine through AIR. As per ATAGI you can not be vaccinated for 4 months* following a Covid infection. This is a valid medical contraindication. That’s what most unvaxxed people are traveling to Bali with.”
Great news! *ATAGI guidelines still say 4 months but other government sources say 3 months. It’s confusing, so best check with your doctor.
If travelling with a vax exemption, some Indonesian sources state that you need a supporting letter from your doctor.
This requirement is not stipulated consistently across official pages, and people online seem to be saying that no one asks to see it. I wonder if this is an old rule that hasn’t been updated? I didn’t want to take any risks, so I got a Medical Certificate from my doctor which stated that he had issued my exemption, the date of issue, and that I had a medical condition that precludes me from taking the vaccines (all available vaccines were listed on the certificate). TIP – if you go to a doctor to get an exemption, ask for the letter at the same time, it will save you a trip. If you really can’t be bothered with this, you’ll probably be fine. No one asked to see my letter and this seems to be status quo. Mask exemptions do not require a supporting letter.
Print the documents
I was very wary of airline or airport staff getting suspicious or disbelieving my documentation – based on the bad news stories mentioned above. I printed my documents out so that I could hand them to staff to scrutinise to their satisfaction. In my case, this was only necessary for showing my mask exemption on my Air Asia flight. The attendant wanted more information – breathing difficulties? Yes, I confirmed, breathing difficulties. He took another look and then said ok. I was not bothered about not wearing a mask for the remainder of the flight.
Register with TIC Bali for a smoother experience
For AU $50, TIC Bali gather your documents via email before you arrive in Bali. Once you arrive, a TIC Bali concierge greets you as you disembark and escorts you through all the checkpoints at the airport, including getting your baggage, bringing you any forms that need filling out, and taking you to the front of any queue. Because TIC Bali had already reviewed my exemption, I was not required to present it at the airport for inspection. Relief! I highly recommend TIC Bali.
Download the Indonesian digital ID app PeduliLindungi
It is a requirement of entry to download and fill in the app. I found it confusing and couldn’t find a way to upload my medical exemption. With my TIC Bali concierge taking care of my progress through the airport, no one asked me to use the app at all. If I had needed it, I’m sure my TIC Bali concierge would have assisted me.
No RAT or PCR necessary
Aside from asking anyone with obvious symptoms and a positive test not to enter, they don’t seem too worried about asymptomatic/undetected Covid cases slipping through.
Visa process is as before Covid
This differs depending on country, but for Australia, simply pay on arrival. The rate is IDR 500.000, which is roughly AU $50.
Join an unvaxxed travel group on social media
The government websites are contradictory and many airlines don’t even have customer helplines to call anymore. I travelled with Air Asia and on customer service I’d have to give them a big fat 0. I had to wait 4 hours to ask my exemption queries on Whatsapp chat (they don’t have a phone or email address), after which the person gave me a link to their website which I had read already, and promptly disconnected the chat. In the end, I got all my best advice from this Facebook group for unvaxxed travellers. Groups are also a great place to hear about where in the world is good for unvaxxed, and any potential pitfalls to be aware of.
Obtaining an exemption for prior infection is obviously the easiest path here. I’m unclear on whether the contraindication period is 4 months or 3 at present. Some ATAGI pages still say 4 months, but other government pages say 3. Best to confirm this with your doctor.
As for contraindication exemptions not involving prior infection, this is a tricky one to talk about online because of the extreme way in which AHPRA has censored and silenced doctors. Any mention of a doctor’s name in the same sentence as ‘vaccine exemption’ is bad news for that doctor’s career. However, there are good doctors out there who understand what is happening, who have read many scientific papers, and who adhere to their medical code of ethics. I was lucky to find such a doctor after 3 months of searching. Not my GP of 10 years, by the way. Knowing my history of chronic illness and extreme adverse reactions to pharmaceutical interventions, she still tried to get me to take AZ. I’ll never go back. The one credit I will give her is that she didn’t suggest the mRNAs for me at all. In the end, she said that she couldn’t give me an exemption because they ‘will put you in a psych ward before they give you one’, and suggested that perhaps I should consider moving country. She offered me Valium to manage the stress of the segregation, but I couldn’t take it as my adverse reactions to Valium are too extreme. I don’t think she appreciated the irony as I did. I tell this story because many doctors will say that they can’t give medical exemptions, but that’s just not true. Doctors might feel like it’s true, but I think what they mean is, “I can’t issue a medical exemption for you without putting my career in jeopardy.” If you really believe that you need an exemption, my suggestion is to actively seek out people who have one and privately ask them if their doctor is willing to see a new patient for the matter. You will likely find a doctor more willing to issue a temporary exemption than a permanent one. It took me 3 months to find a willing, ethical doctor. Please note that health includes both physiological and mental conditions. That’s all I can really say on that.
If you absolutely cannot get an exemption, it’s ok, you’re still allowed in. You just have to do 5 x 24 hours quarantine. It’s not ideal, but it’s doable if you really want to ago and can afford the time and expense.
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My biggest fear of travelling with my exemptions was that it seems that most of these negative experiences are just the bad luck of colliding with a certain type of personality – an attendant who bristles at you, or an overzealous security person. That reminds me, my boyfriend was thrown off a plane last year for not wearing a mask, despite showing his medical exemption. He and the attendant had a personality clash, exchanged a few short sentences, and that was sufficient for the airline to chuck him off the plane. He was never reimbursed and had to purchase a ticket for the next flight, which he got onto with no issues of course, because he had all the correct paperwork. That’s one of the unsettling aspects of the pandemic-era checkpoint system. It has laid the groundwork for overzealous businesses and staff to deny services even if they’ve been paid for, and even if the person is legally owed them.
You can’t control who will be on the various checkpoints for a trip, but I took the view that it would be best to have every bit of documentation on hand so that, at the least, they couldn’t get me on a minor technicality that I didn’t know about.
I hope this helps, travellers. Feel free to contact me personally by DM @dystopiandownunder (insta) if you would like clarification on any of the above. Please bear in mind that I am not able to give out doctor contact details, but I would be happy to share ideas about how you can find a suitable doctor to work with.
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